Why the Social Learning Approach Goes Beyond Social Media

Why the Social Learning Approach Goes Beyond Social Media
April 17, 2012

There’s no denying that Web 2.0 technologies have forever changed the way organizations look at corporate training. As a result, we now have a host of buzz words and phrases out there to describe these “new” flavors of learning.

We’ve heard terms like formal and informal learning, Learning 2.0, eLearning, mobile learning, on-demand training, and of course, social learning.

The last example is particularly interesting, since believe it or not, social learning is hardly a new concept. It was back in the early 1960s when now renowned psychologist Albert Bandura began putting together the components of his Social Learning theory, which tackled the ways people learn within social settings. Since then, many have described “social learning” as simply something that occurrs through person-to-person interactions, often in a collaborative (sometimes even formal) setting.

These days, of course, the term social learning is immediately aligned with social media specifically, which isn’t surprising. (Quick side note: In a blog post about social learning, consultant and speaker Jane Hart rather hilariously noted that adding “social” to the beginning of a word has now replaced putting “2.0” at the end of words as the trendy way to describe Web-based concepts. Can’t say she’s wrong there.)

As a result of this, many companies hear the term social learning and are immediately left wondering how they can integrate social media into their learning and development programs. But if you look at the original definition, chances are there’s already a component of social training and collaboration within their programs. Heck, things like group projects and live Q&A sessions could all technically be considered social learning, and none of them are anything new.

Getting a little more current, you could also classify live chat rooms, wikis, blog comments, IMs, emails, and screen sharing as falling under the social learning umbrella.

Now obviously, social platforms and networks are beginning to play a role in corporate training as well, especially as more professionals build networks on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. But in some cases, sites like YouTube and Wikipedia could become even more appropriate for social learning. As Hart writes in a more recent article for E-Learning Council, these are tools that not only support the sharing of content, but the creation and co-creation of it. Hart adds that “workers are now using similar approaches in their organizations to co-create and share their own content within their own work teams.”

Wikis and internal blogs are some of the simplest ways to help employees create and share content socially, while simple solutions for creating on-demand videos has put engaging, multimedia content within reach for pretty much anyone. Some up and coming institutions have already made use of this.

These are things worth keeping in mind when developing an L&D strategy for your company, as social learning easily goes beyond platforms like Facebook or even Chatter. As content creation becomes a more in-demand part of collaborative learning, companies would be wise to implement those types of tools into their social learning strategies − rather than forcing social networking platforms just because they have “social” in their name.

For more on social learning for businesses, check out some of these additional resources: